Waiting for Godot

“Have you not done tormenting me with your accursed time! It’s abominable! When! When! One day, is that not enough for you, one day he went dumb, one day I went blind, one day we’ll go deaf, one day we were born, one day we shall die, the same day, the same second, is that not enough for you? They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it’s night once more.” -Pozzo, Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett

Time is a funny thing. A week can pass by in an instant and an instant can seem to take a week. In this rushed and busy city filled with rushed and busy people trying to keep one appointment before striding purposefully off to the next, time is always on the mind yet never considered.

There just never seems to be enough of it.

Last night a group of us went to see Samuel Beckett’s classic drama Waiting for Godot at The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone. Just as Beckett himself intended, the play encouraged me to stop – for two hours – and ponder time. Time and existence and sanity and boredom and human rights and striated society and companionship… But mostly time.

As I have felt overwhelmed by the speed of time’s passage these last few weeks, it was refreshing to be afforded a chance to pause and reflect.

“We have time to grow old. The air is full of our cries. But habit is a great deadener.” – Vladimir

Without a place of my own until this week, I have struggled to develop routine – that great structure to which I cling for calm and comfort – and yet I am grateful for the spontaneity that six weeks of wandering has offered. I am grateful for London theatre and friends who will invite me along. I am grateful to be in a rushed and busy city, but too, I am grateful for my flat that offers me a degree of sanity and security. I would hate to wait for Godot night after night after night.

“Nothing happens. Nobody comes, nobody goes. It’s awful.” – Estragon

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Authenticity

“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

Many will recognise the cadence and application of these words, yet among the greatest human debates – following ‘why am I here?’ and ‘is there a god?’ – is the question of what is truth. As some have argued, truth is merely that which is perceived by each individual, thus allowing even conflicting stories and fantastic mythologies all to be ‘true’. There’s some philosophy for your morning coffee.

Nowhere does the truth debate shine more strongly than in the criminal courtroom. There, truth is on trial, even more than the accused.

Take, for instance, the murder trial of Amanda Knox. A British university student named Meredith Kercher was found dead in her room on 1 November 2007 and her flatmate Amanda stands accused. Beyond those two undeniable points, the story gets muddled, the facts conflict, and characters feature or fade depending on which version of truth is on the witness stand.

The intrigue surrounding the trial is perhaps more true than the murder case itself, and that is exactly what director Michael Winterbottom and writer Paul Viragh attempt to portray in their upcoming film The Face of an Angel.

Theirs is a true story.

The script follows the character of Thomas, a Hollywood film director trying to produce a film about the Amanda Knox trial. He begins with a book released by a Rome-based journalist who has been covering the trial. Here the viewer begins the ultra-meta journey of the director and writer themselves. The book and its author actually exist and they served as the starting point for this film script. Thus the viewers watch Thomas, embodying Michael, ‘the director’, watching the journalists, ‘the media’, watching the court case, ‘the instrument of truth and justice’, continuing on through a rabbit hole collection of perspectives – the boyfriend, the eerie landlord/blogger, the disengaged English art student, the family of the accused, the family of the victim, the slew of witnesses, the lawyers, the Hollywood production team, Thomas’ family in Los Angeles, and on and on.

Each presents a true angle. More importantly, each wants Thomas to select his own angle by which to approach the script and make it digestible to audiences seeking the truth. Thomas (Michael and Paul) struggles to reconcile that there may be many truths or none at all. His version of the trial story will be but another ‘true’ perception, a presentation with all the supporting frills and emotional appeal to make it marketable to the blockbuster world.

The Face of an Angel may be one of the most authentic (if one can use the term) trial portrayals: a critique on media and presentation and, I would argue, our understanding of truth itself, the film is a story of love and loss. It is not for everyone – a bit of a self-indulgent mindfuck – but nonetheless fascinating, beautifully made, and a reminder that the jury is still out on the truth question.

On the speed of life

It must be said that however much I craved a faster pace of daily life whilst in Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Lesotho, and even South Africa, London has far surpassed my expectations in the sheer speed of time. Despite a slow, frustrating beginning – as the housing search dragged on and on without success – each hour has shortened and my diary is suddenly filled with events, classes, meetings, and the incessant readings required by my course.

So although few were likely curious about my absence from the Menace these past several weeks, and even fewer truly concerned, I can announce that I am indeed alive and well. And I look forward to a return to relative normalcy on Sunday as I finally move to my own flat (no more couchsurfing!), re-start training for an upcoming 10K, and settle into life in London.

Time flies when you’re having fun, or so they say, but here it seems to fly by whether you’re paying attention or not. No fun-having required.

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Critical Caffeine Cartography

The Housing Hunt has Ended

Since moving out of my lovely little Basotho rondavel in early August, I have jumped from hostel to house to tent to house to house across 4 countries and 2 continents. My life has occasionally condensed to a single backpack’s worth of shirts and underwear and only expanded as far as a duffel bag – twice that size. And much as I love travelling, when looking for a place to settle down for a year there’s a certain desire to unpack the suitcase that’s been glaring at me for the past 7 weeks (and I swear getting heavier by the day out of spite…).

Fortunately, the second in the series of sagas – that of London accommodation – has finally come to an end! The quest has been a source of much frustration, several downer days, and way too much money stripped off my Oyster card. Sadly, finding decent housing in London at a decent price in a decent area and with decent flatmates is like mixing a cocktail with only half the ingredients and substituting along the way.

I move in 3 weeks to east-central London. Expect some geeky gushing about the neighbourhood in about that amount of time. Housewarming parties to come!

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Routemaster

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Happy 60th birthday to the London double-decker!

First Day of School!

This is how I felt at 8am on Monday.

And to clarify, I’m Nemo.

My MA in Geography programme opened with a 2-hour lecture on Boundaries, Sovereignty and the Territorial State – a fascinating topic with a full-year syllabus to match my enthusiasm and stoke my indignant spirit and pose lots of difficult real-life questions without definitive answers.

In the second hour, the professor screened a CBC film about various international boundaries (read:walls) that are currently under construction in various places around the world, including, of course, my own United States on the border with Mexico. And this on the eve of the 10-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Utterly shameful and indicative of the seemingly human inability to learn from past mistakes and outdated practices. I left the classroom feeling more than a bit peeved.

In short, my return to academia kicked off with a bang! Keep a weather eye out for more ponderings and wanderings from my year in London.